column - Diet: The Word Closest to "Die"

My first book signing went well -- I sold 15 copies of Storm Chaser, the weather was cooler then expected while the rain stayed just to the west, and between chatting with readers and family I was able to watch Albion's imagination at work, as life-size pieces of the Albionopoly board went by on the courthouse square. I'll have some photos up later, but meanwhile, time to turn to the dark side of my life: the dietary side:


            This is a difficult column for me to write, about a frightening – no, terrifying – subject.

            I’m going on a diet.

            Worse than that, I’m actually participating in The Biggest Loser.

            No, no – not that Biggest Loser. I maintain my scorn of, and annoyance at, all those overly dramatic, overly competitive “reality” TV shows. Believe me, if somebody gets in my face and starts screaming at me there will be one of two reactions, neither what that person is expecting but one of them shaky from a legal standpoint. The best way to get me not to do something is to go all drill sergeant on me.

            My full time job is at a law enforcement agency, and it’s considered a good idea for people who have to chase down criminals to be in good shape. The problem is, most jobs in that area are largely sedentary – they require a lot of time sitting in a chair/seat, keeping an eye out, and/or doing paperwork. Every time a lawyer or Congressman sneezes another piece of paperwork gets added to the job description of emergency services personnel, and politicians seem to have a lot of allergies.

            The good news is, people in those jobs are usually competitive, so the idea was hatched to have them compete to see how much weight they would lose. The person who loses the largest percentage of body mass gets a chair, or a new keyboard, or something.

            The bad news is, I’m not competitive. From the first time I was chosen last on the playground and wandered off to read a book instead, I haven’t much cared who wins most competitions. You want proof? I’m a Cubs fan.

            I’m not one of those who chase down criminals. I’m a dispatcher: I send other people to chase down criminals. However, I’m also a volunteer firefighter, and for that job staying in shape is on the important side.

            Besides, it bothers me that I’m no longer thin. I grew up skinny – not slim, skinny. Slim people look good; skinny people look … skinny. I could eat anything. Chili. Candy for breakfast. Dirt off the ground, whatever.

            Then, on my 25th birthday, I woke up, got dressed, and noticed I couldn’t see my belt.

            Seriously, it happened overnight. “Hey – where’d my belt go? I remember putting it on …”

            Part of the problem is that I’d worked a factory job, which I left to take a position at the Noble County Jail. Cue report writing.

            At the factory we would weigh ourselves on the shipping scales, for no other reason than to brag about how thin we got hauling around axles and wheel parts in an un-air conditioned metal building. I routinely weighed 170 pounds.

            Then, one day, after three or four years in the jail and fifteen or so years in dispatch, I had an impulse to weigh myself again. 214 pounds, and that was after a long sleep and stark naked.

            Now, I’m not dumb enough to think I can get back to my early twenties weight. My days of buying jeans with a 32 inch waist are over, but seeing a two at the beginning of my weight had a powerful effect on me. When only a few weeks later the Biggest Loser thing came around, I jumped at the chance. Well, more like I lumbered at the chance.

            My official weight, fully clothed and after a full shift of snacking, was 219 pounds. My goal is to reach 190 pounds by the end of summer, to maintain that weight over the winter, and to get down to around 180 by the end of next summer.

            “But can’t you lose weight during the winter, Mark?”

            No. During winter I can barely keep myself from breaking into a convenience store and snacking myself into a season-long comatose state. If I can keep from gaining anything, it’ll be a miracle worthy of sainthood.

            But I have a shot at losing some over the summer, which I usually did until my metabolism decided I’d grown enough and shut down on me. In fact, for this competition I have two secret weapons, one of them summer related:

            The first is that I’m on vacation. We don’t have money for a long trip, so instead we’re staying home and have a whole list of jobs we want to accomplish and local things we want to do, all of which burn way more calories than sitting in dispatch. Not only that, but when I don’t have to stay up all night on the job I can cut down on my regular supply of Mountain Dew, a necessary caffeine source that also has more calories than an entire freezer at Dairy Queen.

            My first night back from vacation is my birthday, and I’m hoping my depressed state from worrying about age will suppress my appetite.

            My second secret weapon? My fiancĂ©e, who can smell a Snickers Bar from a mile away. Where I may get weak and go for the Moose Tracks ice cream, she’ll be wielding the whip, ready to beat me into dietary submission.

            I mean, she literally owns a whip. And whenever I walk by the refrigerator there she is, standing there, cracking that whip in the air. Then she fixes me some nice parsley and carrot soup and sends me out for a five mile walk.

            So yeah, I have high hopes that my plan will be effective in both reducing my weight and improving my health (they aren’t the same thing, after all). Next time you see me, I may be less of a man.

           Scary, isn’t it?


  1. I wish weighing in at the doctor's office was clothing optional. I wonder how much those paper gowns weigh? I'm pulling for you. Here's hoping you're a big loser!

  2. Congrats on the successful signing. I look forward to seeing pictures. As for losing weight, I'm a runner. I run five days a week and that works for me. Everyone is different though. Good luck!

  3. Well, when you do the exercise thing start off slowly. Jillian Michaels has Circuit traing DVDs. They've got 3 workouts on each. They're no longer than 20 minutes. I do three of those a week. That'll kick your butt.

  4. I do ok on diets for about 2-4 weeks, and then I usually fall off the wagon. That sucks. It seems I'm constantly on a diet. I just bought a skort that I can't quite get done up all the way. I need to lose at least 10 before it will go on...I wonder if I can do that before I go camping?

  5. Been there. Even own a whip. All I can say is good luck.

  6. Good luck on the diet. I'm more of an exercise dieter. I just can't seem to give up my food. I can completely relate to the waking up to a different body, though. It used to be so easy! But if you have the motivation and support, you can do just about anything! Hope you accomplish everything you set out to do.

  7. congratulations on the signing. Sounds successful to me.
    As for the diet, I understand. We are a society of sitters - many jobs require that.
    I love the idea of competition to help lose weight, if done fairly.
    Good luck on this, Mark. And you can, yes you can, fit in those jeans again.

  8. I own a bullwhip.

    Congrats on your signing, Mark. Fifteen books for a first novel first signing is good, actually.

  9. "Every time a lawyer or Congressman sneezes another piece of paperwork gets added to the job description of emergency services personnel, and politicians seem to have a lot of allergies"

    All of that red tape is one of the biggest reasons the state and federal governments are so severely in debt. The overhead to operate is ridiculous. I had a professor once tell me that if you ran a business the way states run their agencies, you'd be bankrupt in a week.

    Norma is right. 15 books in a first signing is phenomenal. 8 or 9 is considered successful.

  10. Holy cow, that's a lot of responses. Karla, I don't know how much those paper gowns weigh, but I've discovered my normal clothing adds up to six pounds, depending on the time of year -- I carry a lot of stuff in my pockets.

    I'm not a runner, although I love walking. For most of us, though, those 20 minute, 3 times a week workouts would do just fine, as long as we're careful with what we eat. Jillian Michaels is pretty intense, though!

  11. Beth, I've found the only real secret that works to dieting is to *not* be too strict; allow yourself good tasting food as well as good food, and it's easier to stick to a better balance as opposed to making yourself unhappy, which sets us up for failure.

    Desert Rocks -- can I call you Desert? -- I don't want to know why you have a whip! Same with you, Norma.

    I'm also an exercise dieter -- but although I can't give up my food, I've been able to go to a better combination and have good food that's better for me than the crap I usually eat. We're all a sit-down society now, and we need to adjust our diets accordingly; and get off the chair, every now and then.

  12. Mike, nobody's as good at being inefficient as the government is, which is why I'll never understand where peoples' minds are at when they insist the feds would be better at running something than private enterprise. The more the government takes over, the worst this country's financial situation gets -- it's as plain as the nose of George Washington's increasingly worthless dollar bill.

  13. Still, speaking of dollar bills, I'm very satisfied myself with the way the book signing went. It's possible I was picking some low-hanging fruit with friends and neighbors, but it was still a nice and necessary boost to my ego.

  14. Think swimming, Mark. It works wonders.

  15. Oh, I know it does; but there are no swimming sized pools around here that you don't have to pay to get into, and I'm allergic to very cold water. We went swimming a lot last summer when we were in southeast Missouri, where by July the water is lukewarm.

  16. I heard about the Cave of Forgotten Dreams movie from Dennis Miller, who absolutely raved about it; I hope I get a chance to experience that someday.

  17. Yeah, disregard that last comment, which was meant for someone else's blog. *sigh*